Tag Archives: Travelogue

A memorable trip to Valparai

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valparai

A trip to Valparai was on the cards for sometime.   It happened this March, when my husband and I took a day off coupled with a weekend and headed to Coimbatore.  I had made reservations online at Briar Tea estate Srikundra Bungalow (incidentally, Valparai has limited options.  The best ones are the Briar tea estate or the Tata estate).

As per google intelligence I was led to believe, it would take max about 3.5 hours to reach from Coimbatore.  We landed at the airport at around 11.30, went to catch up with a friend and  left in a couple of hours.  Unfortunately, the vehicle had a minor issue with the door and the fixing took about half an hour or so more .  But turns out, Google timing was not right.  It takes a solid 6 hours to reach this place traversing atleast 40 hairpin bends.

Nature view Valparai

So by the time we reached, it was well past dinner time, dark and deserted.   Luckily the driver was well aware of the place.  This as we realised, was not just an absolute boon, but much a necessity to travel safe in this terrain.   We retired straight after a modest dinner only to be woken up by the estate guys to check out a bison in the vicinity of the cottage.

Next morning, we were up and early for a Nature walk in another of their property.  We were welcomed by the Naturalist there, Rahul Aradhya.   This location was pretty wild.  First stop, was at a beautiful swamp and a few clicks later, moved on to a whole territory of lion-tailed macaques, that’s endemic to the Western Ghats in South India.   Out there, we thought we saw a Hornbill.   Rahul confirmed there were  Great Horn Bills in that region.   We were to eager to pursue so he led us on through some trails following the bird’s sound.    While the walk was so wonderful, and the air fresh and crisp, the Hornbill evaded us. On the way back we spotted a family of Gaurs or the Indian

Gaur or Indian bison

bisons, at a safe distance and moved on.  But just around a curve was another of this beast barely a few metres away staring at us.   Rahul insisted we stood still until it turned away, which it did in a while.  But that was not all.  There was a whole family of bisons behind this one.  I was definitely scared.  With the Naturalist leading us slowly and carefully, I heaved a sigh of relief once away at a safe distance.   A sambar deer with its little one was our next spotting.

We then got back to the start point, spent some time over a cup of tea about the habitat, people, etc.  Leopards were apparently not uncommon in this area.  Turns out that Valparai was a complete forest, that was destroyed for human settlements a few centuries back. If Rahul’s tale is to be believed, Elephants which are known to carry memories from generation to generation is quite unforgiving in these lands for this reason.

Lion tailed macaques

We headed back to our cottage after the walk.  A few hours later we left to pick up Rahul and explore Valparai further.   Our driver Siva was a wild life enthusiast himself.  Rahul, Siva and us made a nice team looking forward to making the best of the day.   We picked up lunch at Krishna café, a decent joint for food in the town.

On our way, Rahul found the perfect picnic spot.  We stopped by a brook side , had lunch , washed up at the stream, enjoyed the place, some chit chats and moved on.  We then went to Neerar dam.  What seemed to be just a dam, turned out to be a surprise.   This had a tunnel ranging about 8 kms in length.  Once you enter the tunnel, you

Nature view – Valparai

could close your eyes to acclimatise to the darkness and then have a splendid view of the never ending tunnel .  Since the water level was not high then we were able to wade through.  This is not allowed during seasons when the water levels can go really high.    We spent a good few minutes, did some photo shoots and left.

Young Rahul turned out to be someone I would term as ‘a free spirited’

Sambar deer

soul.   A huge nature and animal enthusiast, he kept us enamoured by his experiential tales. He had been extensively involved in rescuing animals and is well trained in handling venomous snakes and the likes.   Quite inspiring.

With the impromptu itinerary looking so delightful so far,  I was more than looking forward to what was next.  We travelled back through off beat paths.  Siva was desperately looking forward to seeing elephants, which he had apparently never failed to see in Valaparai every time.   But that was not to be.  We however spotted  porcupines, giant malabar squirrel, bisons again, some more deers in the dark with their eyes gleaming  when struck with torch light and a kukri snake on the road. Rahul promptly got off and prodded the snake away with a stick, to avoid risk of being run over by vehicles.  The ride in all was super thrilling.   Through the day we spotted drongos, fantails, woodpeckers, whistling trush, peahens, bee eaters and some more birds.

The best was yet to come.  Rahul had a surprise laid out for us.

We stopped at a particular spot.  Completely engulfed in darkness, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  We obediently closed our eyes as instructed, until after a minute we were asked to open.  What I saw then was breathtaking.  There were stars as far as my eyes could see.  It was a splendid sight.  The whole territory was infested with fireflies.   In complete darkness the stars in the sky and the lights of these fireflies were just the same.  We took a few good minutes

Kukri snake

to breathe in this beautiful sight completely.  No camera possibly could capture that in a frame .  What an experience it was!  This was Rahul’s gift for us, as he claimed, for our Anniversary.  Thanking him for making this so memorable, we finally got back to our cottage.

Next morning, was uneventful. We left soon after breakfast.  So in all, it was one day well spent at Valparai with some beautiful memories  to look back forever.

“People don’t take trips.  Trips take people”

 

 

Trekking experience – at the Great Himalayan National Park

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Well, this is my first ever travelogue, largely inspired by my recent trekking experience at GHNP, Himachal Pradesh.    I havent really trekked much in the past and a trekking cum vacation plan at the Himalayan valley was more out of a  sheer irresistible temptation when I looked at the photographs of the place.  It turned out to be one of my best ever vacations .

On the 23rd of May we (2 adults and 2 children aged 3 and 7) boarded a flight to Chandigarh.   We reached Chandigarh by around noon.  We were warmly welcomed by Brighu (runs a travel setup Himalayan Adventures), who drove us down to Gushaini our next destination.  Our drive took around 8 hours approximately including the mouthwatering lunch at the roadside dhaba and several chai breaks.

We had booked in at Raju’s cottage at Gushaini for accommodation and for all the trekking arrangements.   It was quite dark when we reached and all one could hear was the only sound of the gushing river Tirthan.  We were quite amused to find out  that the way to reach the cottage was through a pulley over the river. It was a nerve tickling experience for the first time. This pulley is manually operated, meaning someone on the other side actually pulls you in, while someone on your side ensures you are seated.  (Perhaps the idea is to ensure prevention of riff raffs. )  We walked in straight into dinner where we met up with our pal Usha and family and her friend Gita and family, whom we were to join in for this trek.

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Trek day 1 : Route – Gushaini to Rolla Hut – (2100 Mts)  [Trek 11 Kms / 4 – 5 Hrs]

Next day around 8 am after breakfast, the trekking team comprising 5 adults and 6 children along with Karan (from Rajus cottage)  who had volunteered to be our guide for the entire trek, left Gushaini.   Apparently as per Karan, this is the first time a trek team of this size with families were taking the 5 day trek route from Rajus cottage.   The porters, carried our stuff like clothes for 5 days, tents, sleeping bags, stuff for cooking, etc and went either ahead or came later but never accompanied us.

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We carried backpacks comprising the lunch, some essential medicines, water (atleast 3 litres per family), some snacks, caps, kids jackets, camera and the rain gear.    This trek was a combination of hills, valleys and plains.  The picture absolutely scenic.  The kids did pretty well all on this trek .      Like treks go, you are definitely ready to crash, as your legs twitch and body aches (atleast mine did) before reaching the goalpost.    Just before the GHNP gate, we stopped for lunch at Hippo falls.  A sheer delight it was, to see the falls and  to put our feet in the ice cold glacier water. Refreshing ourselves, having lunch and stretching and turning, we took nearly an hour’s break as the kids played.    Then we headed to the Rolla Hut.

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The GHNP entrance is about half km from Hippo falls.  The entrance is apparently another spot where camping happens too.  But we proceeded to Rolla hut.  The path  to the hut is nearly a one man’s lane for most part.    Some of the inner routes required a  certain amount of navigation skills.

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After a 2.5 km walk from the entrance (again up, down & plain) we reached our destination, Rolla hut.  4 tents were pitched in.  Then there was also this “Toilet tent” that was kept at a strategic location – a high-tech (not really, yet a piece of ingenious conception) contraption.  Came in pretty useful too.

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The Tirthan river is quite accessible at Rolla.  We spent a good amount of time relaxing there.  By around 5.30 pm the bon fire was lit and by 7.30 we were done with dinner and made our way to our tents and got snug in our sleeping bags.  The only light by now was that of our torches.

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That concluded Day 1.  My next blog would be on day 2 Rolla Hut to Shilt, a tough trekking day for me.